Melanoma Center

Melanoma Symptoms

Symptoms of melanoma
Melanoma can develop from an existing mole or other mark on the skin, but it often develops in unmarked skin. Although melanoma can grow anywhere on the body, it often occurs on the upper back or legs. Because most cells still create melanin, melanoma tumors are often brown, black or blue-black in color. But this is not always the case, and melanomas can also appear colorless.

Less often, melanoma grows on the soles of the hand, the palms, or the nail beds, or mucous membranes of body cavities. The face is the most common place for melanoma to grow for older people. And in particular, the most common sites for older men include the neck, scalp, and ears.

Early symptoms of melanoma
The most important warning sign for melanoma is any change in size, shape, color or feel of an exisiting mole or other skin growth (birthmark). These changes can occur over a period of weeks to a month. Melanoma also may appear as a new mole and is described as abnormal, or "ugly looking." Signs of melanoma in an existing mole include:

  • bleeding
  • burning sensation
  • crusting
  • elevation changes - thick or raised mole that was flat before
  • erosion
  • consistency changes- mole becomes soft or breakable
  • itching
  • oozing
  • scaling
  • redness or swellin in surrounding skin
  • small new patches of color around a larger lesion (satellite pigmentations)
  • tingling

Later symptoms of melanoma
Later signs of melanoma include:

  • a break in the skin
  • bleeding from a mole
  • bleeding from another colored skin lesion
  • pain in a mole or lesion

Symptoms of metastatic melanoma
Symptoms of metastatic melanoma, or melanoma that has entered the blood stream and spread to other organs may be vague and include:

  • chronic cough
  • a colorless lump under the skin
  • gray skin
  • headaches
  • seizures
  • swollen lymph nodes
  • thickening under the skin
  • unexplained weight loss

Atypical melanoma symptoms
While uncommon, melanoma occasionally does not manifest brown or black pigmentation. Uncommon melanoma subtypes can appear as a pink or red nodule (lump) or look like a non-pigmented scar. Lesions can also appear as a cyst that may or may not be pigmented.

When to seek help
Call your health professional if you experience any of the following:

  • a bleeding mole
  • a change in a mole, including size, shape, color, soreness, or pain
  • a discolored area under a fingernail or toenail not caused by an injury
  • a general darkening of the skin unrelated to sun exposure
  • asymmetry in mole or skin growth
  • border irregularity characterised by ragged, notched, or blurred edges
  • color pigmentation is not uniform. Shades of tan, brown, and black are present. Dashes of red, white, and blue add to the mottled appearance. Changes in color distribution, especially the spread of color from the edge of a mole into the surrounding skin, also are an early sign of melanoma.
  • diameter larger than 6 mm

Watchful waiting or surveillance is not appropriate for melanoma. See your doctor if you notice any suspicious changes in a mole or other skin growth. Melanoma can be cured if it is diagnosed early, before it grows or spreads. To learn how doctors diagnose melanoma, and what to expect when you visit your doctor's office, read the next section on Diagnosing Malignant Melanoma now.

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